STAFF REVIEW of Bomber Crew (Xbox One)

Monday, August 13, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Bomber Crew Box art When you think of a war game, you most likely think of Call of Duty or Battlefield, or maybe a flight combat or RTS, but probably nothing like Bomber Crew has crossed your mind. Developer Runner Duck Games has done some great work here, not only designing a bomber flight crew based game, but a highly addictive and adorable looking one at that. Don’t let the cartoonish visuals fool you, Bomber Crew requires a ton of strategy and quick reflexes if you want to not only win, but manage to not lose your whole crew as well.

While there is a campaign, it mainly consists of bite sized missions that you choose before taking on the critical mission and progressing the difficulty. There’s no real overarching narrative that takes place other than pushing back the enemy, as it’s loosely set in the WWII era without any specific theater of war backdrop. Essentially it’s setup as a bunch of small bombing missions that you choose the order of, progressively becoming more challenging and rewarding.

I’m absolutely terrible at micromanaging and having to multitask with many different things at once, which is most likely why I shy away from MOBA’s and RTS style games, so when began my bombing career had me manage a ton of things and crew all at once, I was a little overwhelmed at first. Battles become very chaotic, hectic and intense, and you’re never able to simply focus on one single crew member or task, as each person and system need to be worked in tandem to achieve victory.

I was very overwhelmed in the beginning, as there’s a lot of button combinations that you need to do, depending on what you want to accomplish, and there is very little downtime, as you need to constantly be doing something with your crew, being it targeting locations or enemies, repairing your plane, healing your crew, or putting out fires. After about an hour though, the controls began to make sense and I wasn’t having to think about how I wanted to execute what I was trying to do. Once you stop struggling with the controls, or what you should be doing, the game becomes enjoyable and addictive.

There’s a little bit of a learning curve in the beginning, not just with the controls, but the proper way to use your crew and how to react when things don’t go quite your way. One early mission I lost a couple of my crew, which introduced me to the permanent death mechanics. From that point on I was much more careful and strategic in my combat choices and priorities.

Bomber Crew gives you a crew that takes to the skies to bomb specific targets. Each member of the crew has their own role and specialization, but should things go wrong, anyone can jump in and fill anothers' shoes, albeit nowhere near as efficiently. It’s your job to make sure they are given orders and carry them out, all while trying to succeed in your mission and bring them home safely for the next bombing run.

At its core, Bomber Crew is really a management game. You don’t technically fly the plane in a traditional sense, though you can give your pilot orders to soar at specific altitudes or take evasive measures when needed. Your gunners will shoot down any enemy targets you spot, the engineer will repair damage when necessary, and of course, the man of the hour, your bomber, will be the one dropping the heavy payloads onto the marked areas when in range and your reticle is over the target.

There’s much more to it than that though, as you’ll have to manage your fuel, refill ammo when empty, make repairs when taking damage, and heal your crew back to health if they become wounded. Just like in real life, sometimes things simply don’t go your way, and moments after takeoff maybe the hydraulics stop working, so you’ll need to send the engineer to fix them quickly. Doing one task at a time is no problem, but when you’re getting shot at by a dozen planes in the midst of a flak barrage with a dreaded enemy Ace pilot on your tail, it becomes frantic quite quickly.

Every crew is equally important in their own right. Even losing one teammate can spell disaster for your mission and crew. Moments after takeoff you’re going to constantly have enemy pilots after you, AA guns firing your way, and other dangers. It won’t make a lot of sense in the beginning what you should focus on and how to prioritize things to become victorious, but it does come in time if you stick with it, and is quite rewarding.

Your navigator will spot directional points, and if you focus on those for a few moments, your pilot will take that as your next waypoint and fly in that direction. It takes some getting used to, as you’re not directly controlling the flight of the plane, but it makes sense in the grand scheme of things. The same goes for enemy pilots, as your crew manning the radar will sense enemies in the vicinity, and you’ll need to hover over their blip for a moment to have them targetable by your gunners. Failure to do so will result in your gunners being essentially blind and unable to shoot at anything. Sadly, you’re unable to choose one specific target to fire at, but your crew will become better over time, learning new usable abilities and becoming much better at their roles.

That is, until they die, and it is not if, but more of a when. You’re able to purchase improved gear for each individual crew member, adding to important stats wherever you deem fit, hopefully to help them survive missions. You’re able to customize each person’s look and name, so have fun naming them after family and friends, which will help you care about them a little bit more. As they complete missions and level up, you’ll unlock special abilities and even subclasses, so it becomes imperative to try and keep them alive for as many missions as possible. When they die, you’ll have to recruit a basic crew again, without any abilities, so do everything in your power to save them when needed. A nice touch is that the main menu has a memorial to honor all of those that have perished in previous missions.

Completing the short and low risk missions as often as possible will allow you to earn some easy money, which in turn will go towards upgrading your bomber plane. Not only can you customize the paintjob of your plane, but even upgrade its parts. This is where you’ll start to see the grind, as parts are quite expensive, but absolutely necessary. In the beginning I was getting damaged quite a bit in missions, so I focused on upgrading my planes armor, but with that comes an added weight, eventually hitting my weight cap. So, then I needed to upgrade my engines to allow a higher weight allowance, but that dropped down my armor, so there’s a balance you’ll need to figure out as you progress.

Do you want way better turrets, well, be prepared to add a ton of weight, or you may want add some extra med packs and fire extinguishers just in case, also adding weight some weight. It’s all about figuring out what works best with your playstyle until you earn enough intel, another type of unlock currency, to gain access to the top tier parts. I do wish there were more bombers and planes though, something that I hope gets addressed in a future patch or sequel.

Missions range from low, medium to high risk, as well as length. Shorter and easier missions don’t have as much of a payday, but there is less of a chance to lose your crew if things go sideways. I grinded the easiest missions I could for a while just to earn enough cash to upgrade my bomber enough so that I wasn’t being shot down so easily. Every now and then you’ll notice that there’s an Ace Pilot that is inescapable in your missions. These act as minibosses, on top of your regular bombing objectives, and will take some serious upgrades to take head on. At any point you can take on the critical mission, which when completed, will essentially progresses you to the next difficulty stage of missions and bigger paydays.

Challenge Mode also awaits you when you grow tired of the grind. This mode puts your crew into a bomber, tackling nonstop waves of enemies and objectives to see how long you can survive. The best part is that there’s no consequence to failing in this mode, so experiment with loadouts add see how a different playstyle works for you. Since it is nonstop waves of challenges, you’ll need to navigate to the floating gasoline pickups to refuel, wrenches to repair your bomber, or health pickups to restore your crew. It’s an interesting change, but I preferred the campaign simply for the progression you make customizing your bomber and crew.

The biggest downfall is how the menus are laid out and control. You need to use the bumpers to change the main categories, then again once you’re in the menu you want, but you’ll constantly hit the wrong button or back out, something I catch myself doing even after many hours invested. For as much I enjoy my time with Bomber Crew, it does become quite a grind if you’re wanting to reach the top tier of upgrades and gear.

Even with the grind that hits at later levels, I kept telling myself to do just one more mission. It’s a little intimidating and overwhelming at first, but stick with it for an hour or two and you’ll start to make sense of the complexity and chaos, resulting in a lot of enjoyment when missions start to go the way you expected. Don’t be like me and initially judge it by its cartoonish visual style, as there’s some serious strategy involved with each bombing run to ensure your crew survives.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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